One of the wines that I often have the most difficult time pairing with food, let alone finding a good quality bottle, is Pinot Grigio. That is, until now. I believe I have found THE one! Pighin Pinot Grigio Collio DOC from the Friuli Venezia Giulia region in Italy. Read more about why I love it, and the grilled chicken recipe with saffron rice that pairs perfectly.

Italian White Wine Country

A 200-hectare estate in the Friuli Grave DOC area, previously owned by a noble family of Friuli, was just the beginning of the Pighin Winery for brothers Luigi, Ercole, and Fernando in 1963. Following a decade of continued success and significant growth, a new, modern winery, ageing rooms, and corporate offices were built in Risano according to the design by internationally acclaimed architect Gino Valle. During that same time, production was enlarged with the acquisition of 30 hectares of vineyards in the reputed Collio DOC, and a winery in Spessa di Capriva.

Read more about what makes Collio the perfect land for Italian Pinot Grigio: Classic, Cool, Collio: An Italian Wonderland of White Wines

In 2004, Fernando Pighin and his wife Danila and his children bought out the entire property. Today, they manage the two estates with great passion and enthusiasm, adhering to the traditional values of the land. Friuli, where the family has set new roots, is one of the most suitable white wine-growing regions in the world. It was already well-known for winemaking in Ancient Roman times. The region is also a borderland, sharing boundaries with Slovenia and inhabited by strong people forged by hard work in the farms and vineyards.

Pighin Collio vineyards
Pighin Collio vineyards in Friuli Venezia-Giulia

Pinot Grigio Facts

Pinot Grigio, also known as Pinot Gris or Grauburgunder, is a white grape variety whose origin dates back to the Middle Ages in the Burgundy region of France.

Considered by many to be a mutant clone of the Pinot Noir variety, it usually possesses a grayish-blue fruit, accounting for its name; but the grapes can also have a brownish pink to black and even white appearance.

The word “pinot” is said to have been given to it because the grapes grow in small pine cone-shaped clusters. The wines produced from this grape also vary in color from a deep golden yellow to copper and even a light shade of pink.

Discover more about the grape: Pinot Gris? Pinot GREAT!

The Pairing: Grilled Chicken and Saffron Rice

For this posting’s food pairing, I opted for a simplistic set of dishes where the wine can shin, and boy it did!

Keeping the ingredients as fresh and minimal as possible is the way to go. The dish is given a Mediterranean-spin and is enhanced perfectly by the Pinot Grigio.

Let‘s get cooking!


Grilled lemon-rosemary chicken

Saffron rice with fried onions

Grilled pita bread

Wine pairing

2020 Pighin Pinot Grigio Collio DOC (Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy)

Lemon-Rosemary Grilled Chicken

Lemon-rosemary grilled chicken
Lemon-rosemary grilled chicken

Serves 4


  • 4 medium sized chicken breasts (about 1/2 pound each)
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • Ground sage
  • Sea salt & cracked pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Half a lemon, thickly sliced for grilled garnish


  • Pita bread (lightly toasted on the grill)
  • Extra virgin olive oil with salt and pepper for dipping pita bread


  1. Place chicken breasts on a large deep dish or pyrex. Season lightly in both sides with salt, pepper, and sage. In a mixing bowl, mix rosemary, garlic, lemon juice and lemon zest. Add olive oil and mix well. Pour mixture on top and around chicken. Cover chicken dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate, marinating for 30-60 minutes.
  2. Heat grill to approximately 350 degrees F. Place chicken breast on grill (turning chicken 90 degrees after the first 4-5 minutes, so as to create cross-hatch grill marks). Turn chicken over and repeat. Chicken is ready when internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F.
  3. Grill thick lemon slices until grill marks begin to appear. Turn over and repeat. Remove from grill once done and sage for garnishing.
  4. Optional grilled pita bread: Grill pita bread on low heat for about 2 minutes each side.

Saffron Rice

Saffron rice
Saffron rice topped with fried onion


  • 1 cup of jasmati rice
  • 1 1/2 cup of water
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon of saffron diluted in 3 tablespoons of water
  • 3 medium sized yellow onions, thinly sliced, julienne style
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil


  1. In a medium pot, bring water to a boil. Add diluted saffron, butter, and stir. Add rice, stir well. Cover pot with lid, reduce heat to to low and simmer for 15 minutes.
  2. Remove pot from heat, fluff rice well and cover. Keep warm until serving.
  3. In a medium size frying pan, add olive oil and heat up on medium heat. Once oil is hot, carefully add onions, separating them while stirring.*
  4. Continue to slowly stir, separating the onions as much as possible. Once they begin to brown on the edges, reduce heat to low. Cook for an additional 2-minutes. Remove onions from pan and plan them on a paper towel-lined plate to soak up an extra oil. Set onions aside.

*If there is too much to cook all at once, cook onions in batches.

Serve it up!

These dishes always looks inviting when’s ever in platters, family style. Place the grilled chicken in the center of large plate and garnish them with the grilled lemon slices, maybe throw in a sprig or two of fresh rosemary.

Serve the rice in a large, deep bowl and tip the center of it with the fried onions. Lightly drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top.

I highly recommend accompanying the dishes with some grilled pita bread and additional extra virgin olive oil mixed with salt and pepper for dipping the bread.

Buon appetito! Enjoy!

Lemon-rosemary grilled chicken and Pighin Pinot Grigio Collio DOC 1
Lemon-rosemary grilled chicken, saffron rice, and Pighin Pinot Grigio Collio DOC

Carlos Sarmiento is an award-winning filmmaker & public relations professional as well as a food & wine aficionado. He first discovered his passion for cooking when he was in his early teens, to the point where he was aspiring to go to culinary arts school and become a chef. Life, however had other plans for him. Carlos ended up studying film-making and pursuing a career in film/TV. After a few years, he made a career change and has since established himself as a seasoned public relations & communications professional. The one constant factor throughout his life’s travels and professional experiences has always been and continues to be his love and appreciation for cultures, cooking, and wine.

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